Introduction to Mark




Mark’s Gospel emphasizes actions and deeds. Jesus is on the go—healing, casting out demons, performing miracles, hurrying from place to place, and teaching. In Mark everything happens “immediately.” As soon as one episode ends, another begins. The rapid pace slows down when Jesus enters Jerusalem (11:1). Thereafter, events are marked by days, and his final day by hours.

“Who then is this?” is the central question of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus’s disciples asked this question to each other just after Jesus spoke to what seemed a life-threatening storm on the Sea of Galilee.

“Who then is this?” is the central question of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus’s disciples asked this question to each other just after Jesus spoke to what seemed a life-threatening storm on the Sea of Galilee (4:35-41).


AUTHOR: The Gospel of Mark is anonymous. Eusebius, the early church historian, writing in AD 326, preserved the words of Papias, an early church father. Papias quoted “the elder,” probably John, as saying that Mark recorded Peter’s preaching about the things Jesus said and did, but not in order. Thus Mark was considered the author of this Gospel even in the first century.

The Mark who wrote this Gospel was John Mark, the son of a widow named Mary, in whose house the church in Jerusalem sometimes gathered (Ac 12:12-17) and where Jesus possibly ate the Last Supper with his disciples. Mark was the cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10), and he accompanied Barnabas and Paul back to Antioch after their famine relief mission to Jerusalem (Ac 12:25). Mark next went with Barnabas and Paul on part of the first missionary journey as an assistant (Ac 13:5), but at Perga, Mark turned back (Ac 13:13).

When the apostle Peter wrote to the churches in Asia Minor shortly before his martyrdom, he sent greetings from Mark, whom he called “my son” (1Pt 5:13). Then shortly before his execution, Paul asked Timothy to “Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry” (2Tm 4:11). After Paul’s execution, Mark is said to have moved to Egypt, established churches, and served them in Alexandria (Eusebius, Hist. eccl., 2:16).

BACKGROUND: According to the early church fathers, Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome just before or just after Peter’s martyrdom. Further confirmation of the Roman origin of Mark’s Gospel is found in Mark 15:21 where Mark noted that Simon, a Cyrenian who carried Jesus’s cross, was the father of Alexander and Rufus, men apparently known to the believers in Rome.

Because Mark wrote primarily for Roman Gentiles, he explained Jewish customs, translated Aramaic words and phrases into Greek, used Latin terms rather than their Greek equivalents, and rarely quoted from the OT. Most Bible scholars are convinced that Mark was the earliest Gospel and served as one of the sources for Matthew and Luke.


Mark’s Gospel is a narrative about Jesus. Mark identifies his theme in the first verse: “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” That Jesus is the divine Son of God is the major emphasis of his Gospel. God announced it at Jesus’s baptism in 1:11. Demons and unclean spirits recognized and acknowledged it in 3:11 and 5:7. God reaffirmed it at the transfiguration in 9:7. Jesus taught it parabolically in 12:1-12, hinted at it in 13:32, and confessed it directly in 14:61-62. Finally, the Roman centurion confessed it openly and without qualification in 15:39. Thus Mark’s purpose was to summon people to repent and respond in faith to the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1:1,15).


Many notions of the Messiah existed in Jesus’s day, and several individuals laid claim to the title. Mark contributes a clarification of the idea of the Messiah and a redefining of the term. Peter’s insightful confession at Caesarea Philippi in 8:29 became the turning point at which Jesus began to explain that the divine conception of the Messiah involved rejection, suffering, death, and then resurrection (8:31). Mark also shows us the human side of Jesus. In fact, more than the other Gospel writers, Mark emphasizes Jesus’s human side and his emotions. Thus Mark gives us a strong picture of both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus.


Mark’s Gospel begins with a Prologue (1:1-13), which is then followed by three major sections. The first (1:14-8:21) tells of Jesus’s Galilean ministry. There Jesus healed and cast out demons and worked miracles. The second section (8:22-10:52) is transitional. Jesus began his journey that would take him to Jerusalem. The final section (11:1-16:8) involves a week in Jerusalem. From the time Jesus entered the city he was at odds with the religious leaders, who quickly brought about his execution. A brief appendix (16:9-20) in which some of Jesus’s appearances, his commissioning of his disciples, and his ascension are recorded.


I.Prologue to the Gospel (1:1-13)

II.Jesus’s Ministry in Galilee (1:14-8:21)

A.Events in and around Capernaum (1:14-45)

B.Five conflict stories (2:1-3:6)

C.Jesus appoints twelve apostles (3:7-19)

D.Charges about Jesus’s mental state (3:20-30)

E.Jesus’s spiritual family (3:31-35)

F.Jesus speaks in parables (4:1-34)

G.Jesus’s authority revealed (4:35-5:43)

H.Rejection at Nazareth (6:1-6)

I.Jesus sends out his twelve disciples (6:7-13)

J.Death of John the Baptist (6:14-29)

K.Jesus feeds five thousand people (6:30-52)

L.A third summary of Jesus’s ministry (6:53-56)

M.God’s word or the traditions of the elders? (7:1-23)

N.Ministry beyond Galilee (7:24-8:21)

II.On the Way to Jerusalem (8:22-10:52)

A.The blind man at Bethsaida (8:22-26)

B.“You are the Messiah!” (8:27-9:1)

C.Transformation on the mountain (9:2-13)

D.The disciples’ failure to cast out an evil spirit (9:14-29)

E.Jesus’s second prediction of his death (9:30-32)

F.Who’s the greatest? (9:33-50)

G.Jesus teaches about divorce and remarriage (10:1-12)

H.Jesus blesses little children (10:13-16)

I.The rich man and possessions (10:17-31)

J.Jesus’s third prediction of his death (10:32-34)

K.James and John make a request (10:35-45)

L.Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus (10:46-52)

III.A Week in Jerusalem (11:1-16:8)

A.The royal procession (11:1-11)

B.A barren tree (11:12-26)

C.A series of conflict stories (11:27-12:44)

D.Jesus predicts the temple’s destruction (13:1-2)

E.Jesus’s Olivet Discourse (13:3-37)

F.The Sanhedrin’s plot to kill Jesus (14:1-2)

G.Jesus anointed at Bethany (14:3-9)

H.Judas makes a deal (14:10-11)

I.The Passover meal (14:12-31)

J.Jesus in Gethsemane (14:32-42)

K.Jesus’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion (14:43-15:47)

L.An alarming visit to the tomb (16:1-8)

[IV.Appendix: Jesus’s Appearances (16:9-20)]

75-50 BC

Spartacus, the Roman gladiator, leads a slave revolt based near Mount Vesuvius. 73

Pompey conquers Jerusalem. 63

Rome’s Gallic wars begin after Julius Caesar becomes Roman governor of Gaul. 58-51

Pompey builds first stone amphitheater in Rome. 55

Julius Caesar invades Britain. 55-54

50 BC-AD 9

Circus Maximus is built in Rome. 50

Mark Antony controls Rome; Julius Caesar is assassinated. 44

Parthians conquer Jerusalem. 40-37

Herod becomes “king of the Jews.” 37

Qumran is abandoned as a result of an earthquake in the vicinity of Jericho. 31

Octavian becomes Augustus Caesar. 27

AD 9-30

Jesus visits the temple at the age of twelve. 9

Tiberius, Rome’s second emperor 14-37

Caiaphas, Jewish high priest 18-36

Jesus is baptized and begins calling disciples. 29

Jesus’s early ministry in Judea Autumn 29 to Spring 30 (John 2-4)

AD 30-33

Jesus’s Galilean ministry Summer 30 to Spring 32 (all four Gospels)

Jesus travels with disciples and engages in intensive training. Summer and early Autumn 32 (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)

Jesus’s later ministry in Judea late Autumn and early Winter 32 (Luke and John)

Jesus’s Perean ministry late Winter and early Spring 33 (Luke and John)

Jesus’s crucifixion, resurrection, exaltation 33 (all four Gospels)